The DSiWare store has been something of a gold mine for me as of late. I didn’t own a DSi and so since the launch of the eShop I’ve been diving into some of the content on that service and there are a lot of good games out there for download. Games like N+, VVVVVV, 10 Second Run and Super Meat Boy all hit the same platforming nerve for me. Precision jumping, lightning reflexes and plenty of patience are required and with one obvious exception those games excel because of the minimalist approach they take to the audio/visual experience.
What You Need to Know
Antipole is a platformer starring a man named Johnny Hurricane, who looks like he was pulled right out of 1930’s Chicago. You’ll go through 20 different levels using your gun to take out enemies, jump over spike filled pits. Mostly, though, you’ll be using your ability to manipulate gravity to traverse these tricky areas to defeat the robot menace that is plaguing the world.
This game, like many I mentioned earlier, is a back to basics, 80’s style game. You run to the right, jump over gaps, take out enemies in the way and finish the level. Games that use that simple mechanic have to be very solid in how they work and Antipole definitely fits that bill. The level design is great. When you’re just running and jumping its very reminiscent of old school platformers and it does that very well. However, the main hook of the game is the ability to manipulate gravity to aid your progress and that’s where this game really excels.
The developers, Saturnine Games, use the gravity to create some very complex levels. You’ll have one section where you’re just jumping from platform to platform followed by a long stretch of level filled with spikes on both the top and bottom and only a small platform for safety. You have to shift gravity on and off carefully in order to navigate these areas while avoiding robot enemies that jump to block your path or shoot lasers at you. Most of the enemies in the game are also affected by your gravity shifts so you can’t simply “float” past them.
There are also areas filled with a deadly green acid that is an instant kill should you touch it. This acid is also affected by gravity so you’ve got to be able to quickly get to where you need to go to avoid it or you’ll have acid “raining” on you from one direction or another. Sometimes enemies will use their own gravity manipulation to reverse your reversal of gravity which adds another little kink in the mix. It’s all of these elements combining that make this one of the best platformers I’ve played in a long time.\
No Frills Attached
Antipole doesn’t go as extreme in the less is more category that games like 10 Second Run or VVVVVV do, but there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to observe in this game. Most of the backgrounds for the game are pretty sparse, though there are a few later in the game that have some crazy patterns that can make it difficult to see. There are only three or four different enemy types in the game, and the main character Johnny doesn’t have a ton of detail.
This really does more for the game to allow you to focus on the platforming portions of the game and I really like the visual style that Antipole is presenting.
You can play through all 20 levels pretty quickly. I finished the main mode of the game in just over two hours. There are however, time challenges that each level presents for you. These times can be very difficult to obtain because every time you die the clock continues to run so you’re always adding to your time. Each level will nearly require a perfect run to achieve these goals. There are three challenge medals in every level that you can pick up. Some of them are in incredibly difficult places to reach. These challenge medals unlock bonus stages that test every bit of your platforming skill. Many of them require you to carry an item along with you, but since you can’t actually pick it up you have to manipulate the gravity, shoot it with your gun and generally create momentum for it to propel it through the level. All of the bonus content can easily double the length of the game and for those that truly want a challenge there are in game achievements that will require you to get perfect time runs, finish levels without defeating enemies, or kill bosses without using your gun.
There was one point that, I’ll be completely honest, almost caused me to shut the game off in frustration never to return. There are four bosses in the game that proved, at least to me, to be more of an exercise in frustration than a test of your skills to that point. The third boss in particular caused me many issues. Each boss has a specific point that they want you to shoot in order to defeat them, but I seemed to be fighting the controls during boss fights more than I was actually fighting the bosses themselves. The final boss of the game also proved to be a bit of a disappointment as it was very easy to defeat.
I’m glad that I persevered through that third encounter because the later levels in the game provided some of the best platforming experiences I’ve ever had in a game in a long time.
Jumping Sometimes Kills You
From the very first time you press the jump button in the game you’ll notice that the controls are very floaty. Johnny seems to jump a little further than should be humanly possible. This jump animation was the result of a number of deaths for me that I thought weren’t really my fault. It seemed that jumps went on just a little too far for my liking.
After a while you get used to how the controls work and you can compensate, but be prepared for some early deaths caused by missing a platform by millimeters and falling to a painful acid filled death.
There are a number of great platformers out there. All of them have slightly different reasons for playing them. 10 Second Run is a text book on how precision platforming can create a great game. VVVVVV is brutal in its difficulty. Antipole takes great platforming, stellar visuals, wonderful level design and tosses in the ability to change gravity itself and mixes it into a brilliant casserole of platforming deliciousness. If you’re the type of person that likes a challenging game experience and a lesson in how platforming should be done I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up Antipole. There are some frustrations to be had, but you’ll soon forget them as you’re navigating your way through acid filled, spike covered rooms of death.
Review copy of the game provided by Saturnine Games
Played through the main story and about half a dozen challenge rooms.
Total Play Time: 3.5 hours